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Aussies in NBA: Does Mack arrival mean an Exum shelvin'?
The trade deadline saw a subtle move from the Utah Jazz, one that might have been viewed as surprising - or perhaps not.
The Utah Jazz acquired point guard Shelvin Mack from the Atlanta Hawks for the low, low price of a 2018 second round draft pick. His arrival makes the point guard position in Utah now look over-staffed, with him joining Trey Burke, current starter Raul Neto, and our own Dante Exum.
Let's examine what this could mean for the Jazz and Dante going forward.
At a glance, this very much appears to be a position in flux. Neto may start games, but he's averaging just above 20 minutes a game as an NBA rookie. He's a good shooter, hitting at a 40% rate from downtown, but with averages of 6.2 points and 2.5 assists, he's a decent bench option, at best, for now.
On the other hand, newcomer Shelvin Mack is the very definition of a journeyman; 5 seasons, 3 teams, and career averages of 5.7 points and 2.7 assists. He's not a great shooter, shooting just 31.7% from 3-point land in his professional career. In other words, the exact kind of guy you get for a second-round pick. But there's an X-Factor to his acquisition; he's friends with Jazz linchpin Gordon Hayward, from back in their college days in Butler.
Lastly, we come to third-year man Trey Burke. Originally thought to be the starter in Exum's absence, he's instead had to come off the bench all season. He's playing about 7 minutes less per game than he did in each of his first couple seasons, and his counting stats have taken a hit as a result. That said, his shooting percentages have shown marked improvement, so it would appear that he still has a role to play on this Jazz team going forward.
It's pretty clear that despite having four guys, Utah are far from settled in this position. None of the three who are available this season has locked down the starring role for themselves, and apparently a move for the Houston Rockets' Ty Lawson was on the cards before Utah decided to go for Mack instead. If this Marc Stein tweet actually did hold some legitimate weight, then maybe Burke is the odd man out after all.
Burke may have just been the price necessary to pry Lawson away from Houston, but if he is indeed the one the Jazz are most willing to move, it makes sense from the Exum-centric view. It's also fair to say that, at this point, Burke would garner the most assets in a trade. Moving him would then pave the way for Dante to take the starting point guard role in the future, with Neto and/or Mack backing him up.
This is all speculation, of course, but take into consideration the softly, softly approach that Utah has taken with the Boomer's recovery from an ACL tear, and it's looking increasingly likely that they're all in on Dante as their point guard of the future.
As it stands, the Jazz have just about enough at the point to get them through the season and maybe even into the playoffs. However, it's certainly a position that they have to pay attention to if they're hoping to be more than a one-and-done playoff team. Acquiring Ty Lawson would have been a bold indication of their ambitions, even given his recent troubles, but they chose to hold off.
Maybe that's because they already have their man, and they're just preparing him for his future with the team.